Growers at the GroSouth trade show earlier this month (7 November) reported that business is slow as continuing caution among customers leads to later ordering.
But despite the low orders at the moment, many growers are confident that business will improve, predicting a late surge. But some warned that the industry will take longer to recover, with little improvement until 2014.
"It's slow and people are ordering less," said Botany Bay sales and product development manager Tim Johns. "Also, people are trying to squeeze their suppliers more. I think it will turn out to be a steady season, like last year, because people have to make a profit in the spring."
He added: "People are booking up to week 16 but not wanting to commit afterwards, so we are not doing much in the later weeks at the moment. There might be a bit of a shortage, which might not be a bad thing."
Syngenta area sales manager Pete Gillman said: "We need to encourage confidence. People are ordering later, which is not surprising with the year we've had, but they will need plants. When people want to buy them they will have to be there. We can't produce them at the last minute. There will be a rush."
However, some growers predicted it would not be until 2014 before sales fully recover. Peter Eastwood Plants owner Peter Eastwood said: "We are doing less for next year. We are trying not to build up stuff that's going to end in a heap. I don't think it will take off again next year. There is the effect of this year's weather and the economy is worse than many people are saying.
"Also, impatiens downy mildew has harmed the market. If people planted them and they failed, they might not do anything. People are short of time - they are having to work harder. We did have the jubilee and the Olympics, and we won't have those factors next year."
Blue Ribbon Plants sales manager Philip Sanders said the conditions this year are having positive effects on how buyers are behaving. "We are not getting people trying to knock down prices for a change," he added.
"People are not discount hunting. They are looking at the quality of the plants more. It's showing a trend to it not just being about low prices. It's about quality."
Suppliers report tough market conditions but say next year is looking better
Graham Meadowcroft, owner, Brockhill Nurseries - "It's tough. We always have stock lined up for September and this year it hasn't gone. It should be good next year. The local orders are still coming in. Further afield things aren't selling but there will be gaps by February and they will need to fill them."
Jim McAlpine, managing director, Fargro - "Next year could be a good one for the industry. Growers have been cautious but if the weather is with them they could do very well. For Fargro, this year has been a good year and we are looking forward to a better year in 2013."
David Spray, owner, Pentland Plants - "Next year is going well and it should be fine. People are coming back with orders. We are well up on last year already and we have got some new customers."